Thursday, March 31, 2016

Steampunk How-to - Bustlin'

For most Victorian costuming, the top is the tricky bit. Getting a fit that is both true to your body, and true to the style can be daunting. For this project I did a mummy draft in corset to work from for making the pattern - see this post for more!

The bustle, however, while less technically difficult is still an important element! The most important factor, is to have enough of it... I had no shortage of fabric, and made generous cuts to ensure adequate yardage. 
The mannequin is a bit busty,
and does not respond to corseting.
First, if you are lining the skirt, cut and sew your lining to fit. That is, the lining should seem like just a large straight skirt. If you are not lining (or your lining fabric is a bit weak,) you will need some strips of sturdy fabric or ticking ribbon for holding up the folds.
Next, you will want to be sure that your fabric is plentiful. For example, I had 20" of waistband to be this part of the skirt, so the top of my skirt was 24". The lining (and distance from waist to just above floor) was 40", so my outer layer was 52" long.
Soooooo much sewing!
Thirdly, it is best to hang the skirt up while you create the pleats and ruffs. If you have a helper, wear it while they work. If you have a dress form or mannequin, be sure it is at the right height, and if you plan to have a cage or bustle pillow, put it on! (On the form, not on you.) If all else fails, clip it to a hanger and dangle it above the floor at the right height. You will have trouble getting good folds if you lay the skirt flat.
Then, start pinning. I start with the seams, pinning my folds through to the lining below. I try to place the folds at fairly steady intervals, working down. It may take some guesswork and re-pinning to get the right amount of lift. Don't forget to leave enough to fold over and hem! After pinning at seams, if you want more folds, mark a line straight down the fabric and pin along it.

After trying it on, hand stitch each fold. It only takes a few stitches with button or quilting cord to be reasonably sturdy. If you do, in fact, plan to be running from angry mobs of MRAs you may wish to sew a bit extra...
Votes for Women, Tools for All!

The finished skirt should have volume and swish! Note that stiffer fabrics will give the best results, particularly if Madam does not wish to wear bustle prosthetics. 

 The finished product, in front of the organ, at Anomaly Con 2016. I'll do another post in the future about some of the finishing details. E'ry day I'm Bustlin'!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Finland Travels - Kierikki Stone Age Center

On our way down from the Arctic Circle we had to make a few stops! I was on the lookout for sites of archeology and traditional culture, and of course beautiful natural beauty. 
We got all of that, and some learning, at Kierikki. The site includes a nice museum with interpretive material in English as well as Finnish. There's a mix of general information about Europe in the time period, the probable lives of humans at the time, and actual artifacts from the excavations here.

And a living history village! A number of reconstructions were built along the river, each one outfitted more or less as we expect they would be thousands of years ago. From the tanning hides and fire pits, to storage pits.
There were examples of traditional craftwork, using tools from the stone age. Many of these items were made by folks at Estonian Craft Camp as well, the tools were modern but the techniques are unchanged!
And of course, how could we skip the opportunity for a photo shoot? We need a few more longhaired rockers and we can start our own Scandinavian Metal Band.
Down by the river was a sunken storage house, for keeping food in summer and winter. In the Neolithic this settlement was on the ocean, and seemed to provide enough food for year-round living without agriculture. Seals seemed to have been an important source of both food and trade materials.
There was a row of these thatched long houses, often several connected so one could more between them without going outside! It seems like an important consideration in the long dark winters...
Since these ancient peoples would have also hunted for much of their food there were examples of traps and snares.
Most were constructed based on a mix of archeological evidence and ethnographic examples. Hunting remains very important to the Finns and Lapps, but more and more as recreation instead of a lifestyle.
Some traps were a bit cruel, trapping the animal alive. Below you see a circle of snares, and a small fall trap.
And how about this diabolic looking piece? I'm presuming they have a safety set up on this, as I imagine it would kill a human as readily as any large animal!
A classic pit trap, complete with spikes in the bottom! Simple, yet effective.
A very large fall trap. This seemed to be for trapping bears, which have great significance to traditional spiritual practices. Trapping a bear would be extremely dangerous, but also very important.
And finally, a box trap. The resemblance to a modern "humane" trap is uncanny...
A friend to guide us on our trek....
As with many spots we visited in this part of the country the ground was very wet and spongy. Great growing conditions for many of the native berries, not so great for keeping one's boots dry. Thus, a walkway built above the soft sections of forest.
The entire area along the river seems to have been occupied in the Neolithic and Early Bronze age. That indentation is a likely house site, and will be excavated in a coming season. Such indentations are common along this section of ground.
This season's active excavation, complete with grids and sifting bins. Despite the age of the site there is not a terribly thick layer of silt to work through.
The museum at Kierikki was fascinating and engaging, and the reconstructions are a wonderful touch for the history enthusiast. We sat and had our lunch around a fire, and enjoyed the forest walk. If you're ever in the area I would highly recommend!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Airship Spotting

 In preparation for Anomaly Con I've been playing with sepia and nibs, and so I present - Airships as illustrated by someone who has a fear of heights and has never been on one.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Steampunk How-To - Mummy Drafting

I'm no stranger to pattern drafting, in fact most of my costumes have been a custom creation by necessity! Firstly, to create (or recreate) a specific idea. Secondly, because my measurements don't seem to neatly fit a single size category. However, I have had some struggles with my Victorian creations. I finally pinpointed the issue - the corset. 

Corsets do more than tuck in the waist, they completely change the silhouette of the body. I've always managed to make reasonable adjustments for the differing distances between measure points (bust, waist, etc.) but struggles with sleeve holes and collars. The answer to this, is to make the measurements with a corset on... (duh.)

Yep, I'm a genius, right?
So, for the first time, I decided on the cheatyface approach, and got mummified. (Full disclaimer, I was not in fact embalmed.) I got a helper at my job to wrap me up, first with layers of plastic wrap, then with broad masking tape. Lesson one  - let the plastic wrap cover far more than the tape, peeling it off the tops of my boobs hurt. A lot. 

I then cut it into pattern sized pieces, as straight as one can manage on layers of tape and cling film. These were measured and traced, then smoothed out for my pattern pieces. 

Next, I prepared the materials. Oh? You thought I just went and bought some fabric? Where's the fun in that!? Why would I buy fabric, when my parents just cleared out all the curtains from a large room? 
Well, I mean, there is all the work that goes into reclaiming the fabric... but that 70s Victorian revival cannot be beat!

I did the test sewing with some white satin, if it works it becomes the lining. If not, well back to the drawing board! It did need a minor tweak, minor enough to avoid remaking the entire thing. I then used the pieces (notice I'm adding a seam allowance to the fabric, instead of the pattern pieces, this allows me to use the pattern with very different fabrics that might require a different allowance.) to cut my finals. 

Voila! It fit on the first try! Now onto sleeves... and skirt... and bustle... oh my. My consensus on the Mummy method?  10/10 - Would wrap again! (Stay tuned for more post about the finished product...

Friday, March 11, 2016

Spring Soup - Herbal Cold Remedy

It's spring time in the Rockies, which means 70 degrees in the city, raging blizzards in the mountains, and wind every afternoon. It also means it's the last round of illnesses floating around to catch the ill prepared victim... (This week it's Me and Mr. Crafty.)

So, I did what any good hedgewitch would - I went to the garden! Firstly, because it needs doing. It's tradition in our family to plant peas and radishes on St. Paddy's Day, but with the climate shifting I'm trying a week early this year. Thus, the beds must be turned! 

Secondly, to get some dandelions for eating. Gardener's reward.
 However, in my digging I discovered that I had missed a few carrots in the final harvest (Including that white one! It might be the biggest I've ever grown!? How?!) Which means that I can create the perfect remedy - soup. There's a reason that folk medicine around the world doses soups out for the common cold, hydration, warmth, salt, and herby goodness. Not to mention that it's tasty.

And so, my March harvest for soup included Dandelion greens and root, carrots (even a little sprig of greens!), leek, chives, and sage. Not pictured are the two non-homegrown ingredients - chicken and ginger root. A nice balance of nutrition, fuel for the body, and herbs to stimulate the immune system. Other good herbs that might be overwintering nicely include thyme, garlic, hyssop, oregano, yarrow, and lemon balm.

Why no noodles? Not needed, for me at least. I do recommend noodles over most other starches, however. Simple starches like potatoes and rice will spike the blood sugar which does not encourage good immune function. On that note, Orange juice is great for staving off sicknesses, but once you're sick try an herbal source of the C, like rosehips or nettles, to avoid the high sugar content of juice.

There you go, fresh foods for natural healing! It should be pointed out that our ancestors did not, as one might expect, struggle for food the most during the cold of winter. It would be the early spring that was toughest, when the stores were depleted but most crops were not yet thriving. Thus, very early wild foods like Dandelion, Arugula, Asparagus, and the like would be important forage in the spring!

It may be no instant cure, but I certainly feel better after a day in the sunshine and a nice bowl of hot soup! What's your favorite spring food?

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Arctic Circle

After our time in Estonia we returned to Finland, and ventured into the wild north. A Ferry and an overnight train dropped us at the Arctic Circle, with clear waters and fresh air... and a million mosquitos.
Finland is truly lake country, in our driving down the length of it we spent most of the time in view of a body of water, or crossing over one. The hilly countrysides simply lift one up high enough to see farther, and spot more lakes.
 There were a number of small cabins and campsites, it seems the Finns enjoy this lovely nature as much as we did!
 And of course, the wild life! After eating a fair bit of Reindeer in Lappish cuisine we encountered this fellow jogging down the road. It seems that these guys are not as jumpy as the Mule Deer of Colorado, as the locals were willing to weave around them like slow moving vehicles.
 We tried not to be too distracted by stopping at every lovely site, as we were headed to the Bronze Age! (That'll be the next post, gentle readers.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

WIP - Handspun Blanket

 So, I've been spinning and dying fiber for almost ten years now! Which means I've gather a whole lot of small skeins, leftover balls, and other sundry bits of handspun yarn. It's been given it's own special bin, and it was starting to overflow. Handspun is precious, yaknow?
 So I've been making granny squares with the leftovers! It's a perfect way to use it up - I can simply use different sized hooks for different weights of yarn, I make the largest square that I can from a given skein of yarn, and the extras become mixed color squares as granny intended.
 So far I have worked thru about half the bin. I have observed that I have a lot of purple, blue, and green yarns. I like nice chunky yarns, but some have been thin enough that I decided to ply them before crocheting! I've got a variety of sizes, and I'm looking forward to laying them all out to piece together...
Strangely enough, the bin is still over full... Hooray for "scrap" yarn!